Kataluna Enriquez, who was crowned Miss Nevada USA on Sunday, will become the first openly transgender woman to compete in the Miss USA pageant.
With a platform centered on transgender awareness and mental health, Enriquez, 27, beat out 21 other contestants at the South Point Hotel Casino in Las Vegas. https://iframe.nbcnews.com/xImrqkG?app=1
“I didn’t have the easiest journey in life,” she said, according to KVVU-TV. “I struggled with physical and sexual abuse. I struggled with mental health. I didn’t have much growing up. I didn’t have support. But I’m still able to thrive, and I’m still able to survive and become a trailblazer for many.”
After her win, Enriquez thanked the LGBTQ community on Instagram, writing, “My win is our win. We just made history. Happy Pride.”
The Miss Nevada USA organization congratulated Enriquez for her historic win on social media and shared the hashtag #bevisible.https://iframe.nbcnews.com/QywZSoD?app=1
In March, Enriquez, who previously competed in trans-specific pageants, became the first transgender woman crowned Miss Silver State USA, the main preliminary for Miss Nevada USA.
During the pageant’s question-and-answer segment, Enriquez said being true to herself was an obstacle she faced daily.
“Today I am a proud transgender woman of color. Personally, I’ve learned that my differences do not make me less than, it makes me more than,” she said, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported. “I know that my uniqueness will take me to all my destinations, and whatever I need to go through in life.”
Enriquez, who is Filipina American, designs her own outfits, including a rainbow-sequin gown she wore Sunday night in honor of Pride Month “and all of those who don’t get a chance to spread their colors,” she posted on Instagram.
“Pageantry is so expensive, and I wanted to compete and be able to grow and develop skills and create gowns for myself and other people,” Enriquez said, according to the Review-Journal.
She will represent Nevada at the 2021 Miss USA pageant, being held Nov. 29 at the Paradise Cove Theater at the River Spirit Casino Resort in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The Miss Universe pageant system, of which Los Angeles-based Miss USA is part, began allowing transgender entrants in 2012. If she is crowned Miss USA, Enriquez will be the second trans contestant in a Miss Universe pageant, after Spain’s Angela Ponce in 2018.
Miss America, a separate organization headquartered in New Jersey, did not immediately reply to an inquiry about whether transgender women or nonbinary individuals are allowed to compete in its annual competition. As of 2018, the pageant was reportedly only open to “natural born women,” according to the Advocate.
In February, a federal judge upheld the right of another organization, Nevada-based Miss United States of America, to bar transgender contestants from its pageant.
Today, 70 percent of Americans support same-sex marriage. But on June 24, 2011, when the New York Legislature passed the state’s marriage equality measure, only 46 percent did, barely surpassing the 45 percent who opposed the right of gay couples to wed.
Five years earlier, in 2006, the New York Court of Appeals had determined the state constitution did not guarantee same-sex couples the right to marry. That left advocates with only a legislative remedy.
Failed attempts to pass marriage equality measures in 2007 and 2009, however, left supporters deflated.
Christine Quinn, an out lesbian who served as speaker of the New York City Council during both attempts, said the 2009 defeat in the state Senate felt “like the rug had been pulled out from under us.”
“It was so personally painful and so, really not to be dramatic, but devastating,” Quinn said. “And it gave strength to the other side. New York is seen as a progressive state … so us not having marriage equality, it made a great excuse for other states not to do it.”
Then came 2011: Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo was sworn into office in January after making same-sex marriage a key plank in his campaign.
“Previously, we had Gov. [Eliot] Spitzer, and he kind of crashed and burned. Then we had Gov. [David] Paterson, and he had no political juice,” Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell, who introduced five marriage bills over four years, said. “Then we get Cuomo: Here was a guy who was willing to make marriage a priority.”
Cuomo had first publicly supported same-sex marriage when he successfully ran for attorney general in 2006.
“I don’t want to be the governor who just fights for marriage equality,” he told attendees at an Empire State Pride Agenda dinner in fall 2010, the Observer reported then. “I want to be the governor who signs the law that makes equality a reality in the state of New York. And we’re going to get that done together.”
Attempting a ‘herculean feat’
On Jan. 5, 2011, in his first State of the State address, Cuomo promised same-sex marriage legislation would pass that year. With that mandate, activists got to work: The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ advocacy group, partnered with Freedom to Marry, a national organization, and Empire State Pride Agenda, a statewide LGBTQ group, to form New Yorkers United for Marriage, an umbrella group laser-focused on getting legislation passed. They targeted regions across the state, from the Hudson Valley to the Capital Region, to garner support from constituents.
“We built this huge campaign over time, over six months,” David Contreras Turley, then-associate regional field director at HRC, told City and State New York in 2019. “We ended up harnessing about 125,000 constituent contacts for what I know is one of the largest grassroots campaigns in terms of numbers, especially in the LGBT civil rights movement.”
The time was right, but advocates knew they had to strategize differently. Not only had they lost in New York in 2009, but that same year a same-sex marriage bill signed into law in Maine was overturned in a voter referendum.
“We had the opposite of momentum,” said Brian Ellner, who left then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s office in 2011 to help lead New Yorkers for Marriage Equality. “No one thought that we could get it done with a Senate that was controlled by Republicans. They didn’t even think the Senate majority leader would bring it to a vote. And we needed to find four Republican yeses, two years after we lost in a Senate that was controlled by Democrats? It was quite a herculean feat.”
For O’Donnell, one of six openly LGBTQ lawmakers serving in the state Legislature at the time, the way to win was to make it more personal: Previously, he said, state Sen. Tom Duane, Assembly Member Deborah Glick and other gay legislators had kept their partners out of politics.
“I knew that that wasn’t going to work,” O’Donnell said. “If I wanted my colleagues to see John and I as part of a couple that deserves equal rights, I had to show them my relationship.”
O’Donnell and his now-husband, John Banta, met on the first day of classes at Catholic University in 1978 and began dating two years later.
“I brought John around to a much greater degree than my colleagues had,” he recalled. Banta, the director of special events for the Metropolitan Opera, was a name on his own, and the pair made something of a power couple in Albany.
“It didn’t hurt that he was tall, thin and good looking,” O’Donnell joked. “But, more importantly, he was there, and people saw it as voting against us, rather than just voting against an issue.”
Duane also decided to start bringing his then-partner to Albany more often.
Preaching to the unconverted
They worked diligently to garner Republican support because they didn’t want marriage equality to become a party-line issue, “even though in my heart I knew it clearly was going to be,” O’Donnell said. He also sent weekly letters to his colleagues, with appeals coming from many different angles.
“One might be a poll, one was a letter from a California state senator who went from a ‘no’ to a ‘yes’ and got re-elected anyway,” he recalled. “One was a letter from Mildred Loving — who was, of course, the plaintiff in Loving v. Virginia, which took down anti-miscegenation laws at the Supreme Court — saying this is the same thing. We went around and around pivoting from the moral issue, to the legal issue, to the political issue, to try to give people enough cover to feel that they could vote for it.”
At the end of each letter, O’Donnell wrote, “John and I thank you for taking the time to consider this.”
For Ellner, a new approach meant reaching a new audience and changing the message.
“We couldn’t just talk in an echo chamber if we wanted to convert people to the cause,” he said. “At the time, support for marriage equality was barely at 50 percent in New York, I think, and we really wanted to get it to a majority, if not supermajority, before the vote.”
On March 9, 2011, Cuomo held a meeting with legislators, lobbyists and other major players inside the Capitol’s Red Room. After the disastrous 2009 vote, he wanted to be certain they weren’t working at cross purposes.
“He called a bunch of us to Albany to have a meeting about all of us who were working to get this done, to make sure we were aligned and coordinated,” Ellner recalled. “He made it very clear that this was a very, very high priority for him, if not his top priority that session. I don’t think he could have leaned in any harder to use all of his popularity and his influence.”
What many people don’t understand, O’Donnell said, is that “part of New York is more like Ohio” than New York City.
“We have very rural areas, we have very poor areas, we have some beautiful places. It’s a wonderful place to visit, but it’s not all liberal New York City people,” he said.
As he lobbied for the bill, O’Donnell said, “many senators said to me privately, ‘I think it’s the right thing to do, but my voters won’t tolerate it.’”
Ellner said he had senators, both Democrats and Republicans, telling him they needed to hear from their constituents that there was support. Legislators claimed that, in 2009, voter contacts “were running something like 3 to 1, or even 4 to 1, against marriage,” Ellner said.
So New Yorkers for Marriage Equality launched an enormous field effort with volunteers working across districts — knocking on doors, standing outside supermarkets — to talk to constituents and get postcards signed.
“When you talk to these senators, it’s about voter contact from within the district,” Ellner said. “They don’t care about a national email petition. They don’t care that Brian Ellner from Chelsea wrote to a senator upstate. They want to hear from their constituents, either by phone or preferably by mail. The mail gets counted and weighed, and that has a huge impact, because many politicians are focused on survival.”
Ellner said his team would get intelligence about a senator they had a shot at winning over, and then they would flood that lawmaker’s district with workers to get signatures.
“And if we heard that someone was definitely a ‘no,’ we would move everyone out of that district and into another one,” Ellner said. “We had really dedicated young people throughout the state who were couch surfing.”
That was the less glamorous part of the campaign, he admitted, “but there was no way we were going to let these senators hear more ‘nays’ than ‘yeas.’”
New Yorkers for Marriage Equality also launched a massive video campaign, with famous New Yorkers making the case for same-sex marriage. Directed by documentarian Annie Sundberg (“Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work”), the videos featured celebrities (Julianne Moore, Whoopi Goldberg, Anna Wintour), athletes (New York Ranger Sean Avery and Michael Strahan of the Giants) and establishment types (Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs and police Commissioner William Bratton).https://iframe.nbcnews.com/ZZoTZob
“We really wanted to broaden the support and show that there was widespread support across all different communities,” said Ellner, who knew Sundberg from Dartmouth College. “We just wanted this drumbeat of constant positivity, especially toward the end of the session when the legislature really slows down and there’s all kinds of deal-making going on. And frankly, we didn’t want to give the media the opportunity to write negative stories — to say that this was being derailed.”
Advocates turned up the heat on state senators, pressing their friends, relatives, even their rabbis, to track their vote and bring them to a “yes.”
But the clock was ticking. Cuomo had made his declaration in January and called everyone together in March. By late May a bill still hadn’t come forward, and the session ended in June.
Finally, on June 13, 2011, three Democratic state senators who had opposed same-sex marriage in 2009 — Joseph Addabbo Jr., Shirley Huntley and Carl Kruger — announced they would vote “yes” this time.
The final countdown
The Marriage Equality Act was introduced in the Assembly on June 14, and the following day, it passed the chamber 80 to 63. Though a healthy margin, it was a smaller one than the 2009 measure enjoyed.
A vote in the Senate was delayed while Cuomo negotiated with Republican leadership. For more than a week, thousands rallied outside the Capitol on both sides of the issue.
Finally, on June 24, the last day of the legislative session, Republican state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos announced that “same sex marriage legislation will be brought to the full Senate for an up or down vote.”
O’Donnell and Banta went to the Senate floor to watch the proceedings.
“The Capitol was entirely filled with people, so it’s hot as hell, and there are thousands of people on the stairways, in the hallways, everywhere,” O’Donnell said. “As each vote was taken, John was there. All my colleagues knew who he was. He was sitting in the audience, and many of the senators knew who he was. So we’re standing on the back of the floor of the Senate, and people are walking up to him and I and giving us both hugs and kisses.”
The vote was a nail-biter till the end, O’Donnell said — a rarity in Albany, where most bills don’t come to the floor unless passage is practically guaranteed.
State Sen. Stephen Saland of Poughkeepsie, a Republican who voted against same-sex marriage in 2009, announced he would vote “yes” the same day the bill came to the Senate floor.
“I have defined doing the right thing as treating all persons with equality,” he said during the debate on the measure. “That equality includes the definition of marriage. I fear that to do otherwise would fly in the face of my upbringing.”
‘All New Yorkers are equal under the law’
Late in the evening of June 24, 2011, the Marriage Equality Act passed the GOP-controlled Senate 33 to 29, with all Democrats and four Republicans voting in its favor. Cuomo signed it into law the same night at five minutes to midnight.
“With the world watching, the Legislature, by a bipartisan vote, has said that all New Yorkers are equal under the law,” Cuomo said in a statement. “With this vote, marriage equality will become a reality in our state, delivering long overdue fairness and legal security to thousands of New Yorkers.”
The New York Marriage Equality Act amended New York’s Domestic Relations Law to affirm that “no government treatment or legal status, effect, right, benefit, privilege, protection or responsibility relating to marriage shall differ based on the parties to the marriage being the same sex or a different sex.”
Quinn, who was in City Hill at the time trying to pass the city’s budget, remembers getting word during a press conference with Bloomberg. A staffer gestured wildly from the sidelines with a giant thumbs up.
“Oh God, as a New Yorker, it just made me so proud,” Quinn said, “and gratified that, finally, a discriminatory fact had been erased from the record. It meant a lot. It’s hard to hold your head up higher as a New Yorker, because we’re a pretty arrogant group, but I felt I could hold my head up higher.”
Ellner, who was in Albany as the vote was taken, said his only regret was not celebrating at the Stonewall Inn with the thousands of LGBTQ people and allies who had gathered there.
“It was kind of bittersweet to see it on CNN,” he said. “But, no, honestly, it was amazing.”
Banta stayed with O’Donnell in Albany that night, then the two returned to New York City the following morning. It was gay Pride weekend, and they marched in the parade with O’Donnell’s 5-year-old nephew.
“He told all his friends he was going to ‘Uncle Danny’s parade,’” O’Donnell said. “Literally, when the march would stop moving, people would chant my name on Fifth Avenue. But really, there was such a sense of euphoria — and relief.”
‘It felt miraculous’
The New York Marriage Equality Act took effect Sunday, July 24, 2011, and couples started getting married that same day.
One of them was Jonathan Thompson and Jonathan Polansky, who got married at the Queens courthouse in Forest Hills, after dating since 2002.
“We’d been together so long at that point that once the vote happened, we just sort of looked at each other and said, ‘So, we’re doing this, right?’” Thompson said.
It wasn’t a big romantic gesture, he said, but they were acutely aware of how monumental the moment was.
“It had been such a long push for marriage in New York, and we’d all been disappointed so many times before,” Thompson said. “When the bill actually passed — and during Pride Month, no less — it felt miraculous. There was just this communal feeling of emotion, and we just wanted to be a part of it.”
That wasn’t the only reason, though.
“If I’m being honest, I was also a little distrustful,” he said. “We wanted to do it right away, before anyone could take it away.”
The city had initially announced a lottery for the first day — Thompson and Polansky applied and won. Then officials decided to let everyone who had entered the lottery get a marriage license.
“So it ended up being a big, huge event,” Thompson said. “I remember it was extremely hot. We wanted to dress up, but it was stifling. So, we just went with business casual.”
It was a Sunday, when normally the courthouse would have been closed. But clerks and judges volunteered to work that day.
“Just to know that everyone there was rooting for us was a monumental thing,” Thompson said. “We took a number and sat in the waiting area, where we ran into some friends who were volunteers. Everyone there was talking to each other and taking pictures. It was definitely a sense of community and excitement.”
As a council member, Quinn didn’t have the power to perform ceremonies, but she was determined everything would go smoothly.
“My office, the speaker’s office, asserted itself into the full planning process,” she said. “I went to four of the five boroughs to congratulate and meet people who were getting married and also to thank the council staff that were there. I’ll never forget this one intern we had that summer. … He was holding up this huge sign that said, ‘This way to photos.’ Just the joy on his face and the joy of the people who were following him. I told him it looked like he was leading a parade.”
She recalled seeing City Clerk Mike McSweeney conducting the first ceremony in Manhattan, for Connie Kopelov, 85, and Phyllis Siegel, 76. The women had met in the mid-1980s volunteering with SAGE, an advocacy group for LGBTQ older adults.
“It was magical,” Quinn said. “It was really, like, you couldn’t believe that a law, which on some level is just a piece of paper, could have such an impact. But it did — and it has.”
Everything had happened so fast that the offices of the city clerk hadn’t even had time to change its paperwork.
“The forms still had ‘man’ and ‘woman’ on it,” Thompson said. “It wasn’t embarrassing, though. It was amusing. It was nice. It was this feeling of, ‘We’re not gonna wait to fix it; let’s just get going, and we’ll all figure it out as we go.’ That was exciting.”
More than 800 couples registered to get married in New York City that first day alone, according to The Associated Press.
“People were booking flights to New York to get married,” O’Donnell said. “We didn’t have a residency requirement, so anybody could come here from anywhere in the world and get a marriage license and bring it back to where they’re from.”
For O’Donnell, the writing was now on the wall for federal marriage equality. Vermont, New Hampshire and the District of Columbia had already passed marriage laws legislatively, but New York was by far the largest state.
“Even in places like Mississippi or Alabama, at some point they were going to have a problem with the full faith and credit clause of the Constitution if they say, ‘We’ll accept straight marriages from New York but not gay ones.’” he said. “So it was coming.”
Ellner recalled “tremendous momentum” among activists coming out of the victory in New York.
“It felt like it was a matter of time,” he said. “It all shifted radically and so quickly. It was really the velocity that was surprising, but we felt, ‘As New York goes, so goes the nation.’”
It wasn’t a bloodless victory, though: The four Republican state senators who crossed the aisle to support the bill all were out of office within the next few years.
In September 2012, Sen. Roy McDonald, who represented conservative Saratoga County, was defeated in a Republican primary by Kathy Marchione. During the race, Marchione questioned McDonald’s conservative bona fides, claiming he backed same-sex marriage to secure campaign donations.
“I could have found an easier way to get re-elected,” McDonald countered during a primary debate, insisting he supported the bill as “a human being that cared.”
“You get to the point where you evolve in your life where everything isn’t black and white, good and bad, and you try to do the right thing,” he told reporters. “You might not like that. You might be very cynical about that. Well, f— it, I don’t care what you think. I’m trying to do the right thing.”
But an undeniable tipping point had been reached: In 2012, Maine, Maryland and Washington all enacted same-sex marriage measures at the ballot, and, for the first time ever, the Democratic National Convention adopted a political platform endorsing same-sex marriage. That May, then-Vice President Joe Biden came out in favor of same-sex marriage, quickly followed by President Barack Obama.
The following year, a key part of the Defense of Marriage Act was struck down by the Supreme Court, and nine more states recognized same-sex marriage — five through legislation (Rhode Island, Delaware, Minnesota, Hawaii and Illinois).
“We showed that you could do it,” O’Donnell said of New York’s LGBTQ advocates. “I offered to help anybody out there who wanted to know how to do it, because it takes work. In the House, I flirted with some colleagues, I threatened others. I promised every single one of them if they voted ‘yes’ that I would invite them to my wedding, which I did — our wedding had 450 people at it. They all came.”
O’Donnell said he had toyed with getting married on that first day, but July 24 was Banta’s birthday, “and I didn’t need to be the first,” he said.
The pair married on Jan. 29, 2012, at Guastavino’s in Manhattan, with both Democratic and Republican legislators, the state comptroller, Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy and Cuomo all in attendance.
“If you’ve never thought you could get married, you never spend any time thinking about what your wedding would be,” O’Donnell said. “The two things that I wanted were a wedding cake and an actual honeymoon. So we had our wedding, we had our cake and then we went to Paris.”
After a year when Pride celebrations had to go virtual, members of the LGBTQ community and their allies are eager to shine bright in 2021. And as in years past, numerous brands have launched special Pride products and capsule collections that celebrate love, diversity and inclusion. However, advocates say that authentic support means more than just a rainbow stripe on a T-shirt.
“Brands need to approach Pride not as a marketing moment to sell products and profit from LGBTQ people, but [as] a time to loudly use their reach and influence to affirm our community and support advocacy organizations in authentic and impactful ways,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, CEO of the media watchdog group GLAAD.
Companies that truly walk the walk donate to and uplift LGBTQ organizations, added Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, the country’s largest LGBTQ advocacy group. “These businesses provide an invaluable platform to further the fight for LGBTQ equity and inclusivity,” he said.
Some organizations are contributing a portion of proceeds from Pride products to groups like GLAAD and HRC, while others are making direct donations so LGBTQ organizations can continue their vital missions. “We are thrilled to see so many companies and brands stepping up to support Pride this year,” said Shira Kogan, director of corporate development at the Trevor Project, an LGBTQ youth suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization. “Beyond the essential financial support, there’s also a direct benefit for the community when brands are loud about their support of Pride,” she added. “More than half of youth said brands who support the LGBTQ community positively impact how they feel about being LGBTQ.”
Below, we’ve gathered some of our favorite offerings for Pride 2021, including clothing, toys, personal care products and more.
On June 1, LEGO launched its first LGBTQ-themed set, which comes with 11 monochromatic figures, each with an assigned color, and 346 pieces creating a rainbow cascade.
“I wanted to create a model that symbolises inclusivity and celebrates everyone, no matter how they identify or who they love,” said Matthew Ashton, Lego’s vice president for design who developed the limited-edition set.
In January, Old Navy announced “Project WE,” a collection of T-shirts created in collaboration with diverse artists to honor International Women’s Day, Juneteenth, LatinX Heritage Month and other cultural touchstones.
For Pride, the company has tapped queer artist Edward Granger, who designed a unisex rib-knit black crew with the world “Love” colored in a variety of hues. An alternate “Pride” version in white presents an abstract rainbow of geometric shapes.
“This is our love letter to the LGBTQIA+ community,” Granger said. “Love yourself, stay connected to who you are, and never give up.”In celebration of the Project We initiative, Old Navy is donating $1 million to Boys & Girls Clubs of America to support youth arts programs in communities across the United States.
For the second Pride season running, Skittles has given up the rainbow in a tip of its hat to the LGBTQ community. Limited-edition Skittles Pride Packs feature gray packaging on the outside and all gray candies inside. (They’re still jammed with delicious strawberry, orange, grape, apple and lemon flavors, but good luck telling which is which.) During the month of June, $1 from each pack will be donated to GLAAD, up to $100,000.
Sarah Long, chief marketing officer for Mars Wrigley North America, said the returning campaign symbolizes the candymaker’s commitment “to shape a world that is connected, caring and celebratory.”
“Skittles giving up their rainbow means so much more than just removing the colors from our Skittles packs, and we’re excited to use our platform to do our part in driving visibility for the LGBTQ+ community, creating better moments and more smiles,” Long said.
Limited-edition packs are available for purchase in 4-ounce Share Size Packs and 15.6-ounce resealable Sharing Size Stand Up Pouches at Walmart, Target and other retailers.
The Rainbow Disney 2021 collection includes dozens of tees, polos, mugs, backpacks, hats, face masks and more, available online and in select Disney stores and theme parks.
In celebration of Pride Month 2021 The Walt Disney Company is donating to LGBTQ organizations around the world, including ARELAS in Spain, Famiglie Arcobaleno in Italy, Nijiiro Diversity in Japan and, here in the U.S., GLSEN, which works to ensure all students learn and thrive in a safe and supportive environment.
“We chose to showcase real, bold and wonderful individuals celebrating a virtual prom in a safe and welcoming environment” said Ugg president Andrea O’Donnell in a statement. “We wanted to express that there is beauty in what makes you different and that you should never feel the need to apologize for who you are or who you love.”
The Disco Stripe Slide comes in the colors of the Pride rainbow or in the pink, blue and white of the transgender flag. It’s comfortable and stylish — and $25 from each pair purchased on UGG.com goes to GLAAD, up to $125,000.
The classic card game gets a Pride makeover with special rainbow-colored cards available exclusively at Target.com and Target stores nationwide. Mattel will donate $50,000 to the It Gets Better Project.
PetSmart’s You Are Loved collection includes rainbow-tinted plush toys, pet clothing, collars, bandanas and more. A fun item from the collection is the Pink Pride Pet Dress — it slips on and off in a snap, and comes with a message of pride and an adorable tutu. This year, PetSmart is donating $100,000 to GLSEN.
The old-school cool shoe brand is keeping it simple for Pride 2021, giving its classic 1461 oxford a rainbow flag on the heel tab and a rainbow Airwair heel-loop. You can upgrade your look even further with rainbow laces and Dr. Martens athletic socks with rainbow stripes, available in black or white.
“At Dr. Martens, we know our many diverse wearers have got us to where we are today,” the company said in a statement. “That’s why we celebrate individuality and diversity in all forms.” As in years past, Dr. Martens is donating $100,000 to The Trevor Project.
The couture house got a little risque with its Pride capsule range this year, including baseball caps, sports bras, shirts, bracelets, fake-fur coin purses and a jockstrap with a rainbow waistband. The collection includes an oversize pink hooded sweat jacket emblazoned with the word “Gay,” stylized like a GAP logo.
Like the rest of the Pride collection, the sweat jacket was designed by Balenciaga creative director Demna Gvasalia, who was raised in the republic of Georgia where LGBTQ people are often the targets of bigotry and violence.
“I’m gay. I grew up in a society where I couldn’t have worn that, and there are places in the world that you cannot today,” Gvasalia told Vogue back when the collection was previewed. “It’s important to push through against homophobia. I’m not someone who goes out in the street and shouts. But this is the political fashion activism I can do.”
Balenciaga is donating 15 percent of sales from Pride items to The Trevor Project.
Vans’ Pride 2021 Collection goes to the dark side — with slick black Sk8-Hi boots with a thin rainbow stripe. This classic high-top also includes padded collars, reinforced toe caps and Vans’ signature rubber waffle outsoles. Looking to make a brighter statement? The collection also includes a kaleidoscope of slip-ons, sneakers, tees, tanks, laces and more.
This year, Vans is making a $200,000 donation to organizations that support the LGBTQ community around the globe, like GLSEN, Where Love is Illegal, Casa 1 and Tokyo Rainbow Pride.
This Pride, NYX is partnering with HBO’s “Legendary” to celebrate the ballroom scene with a #NYXCosmeticsBall Instagram challenge that sees contestants competing for a $5,000 prize. The category, of course, is FACE.
To get you started on your ball look, NYX is launching a limited-edition collection featuring a Metal Play Palette, Shape Loud Liners, Epic Wear Liner Sticks and the Born to Glow Highlighter that will bring a colorful ultra-metallic sheen to your mug. This year, NYX is also donating over $100,000 to global Pride efforts, including a donation to the LA LGBT Center.
EFFEN commissioned Chicago-based queer artist and street muralist Sam Kirk to design the label for its Pride bottle, which celebrates the intersectionality and vibrancy of the Black and LGBTQ communities. Consumers can also personalize their EFFEN Pride 365 bottles with vinyl decals from queer nonbinary Afrolatinx artist Acacia Rodriguez and trans artist Kyle Lasky.
This year, EFFEN is partnering with Allies in Arts, which works to promote underrepresented women, BIPOC and LGBTQ artists. For each 750 ml bottle sold, EFFEN will donate $1 to Allies in Arts.
Happy Socks is switching it up for Pride this year: Instead of launching a large-scale campaign, the company donated the campaign’s entire $20,000 budget to InterPride, an organization promoting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex communities around the world.
The company is also launching a new Pride collection, featuring four rainbow-centric styles available in adult and kids’ sizes, as single pairs or in gift boxes. The collection includes socks inspired by the “Progress” Pride Flag designed by Daniel Quasar. They feature a broader spectrum of the LGBTQ representation, including pink, light blue and white stripes to represent transgender and non-binary individuals, and black and brown to symbolize marginalized communities of color, as well as those affected by AIDS. Ten percent of the profits from all Pride collection items will be donated to InterPride.
Ranging from $18 to $148, Levi’s 2021 Pride Collection “All Pronouns. All Love” puts emphasis on respecting people’s pronouns, with the phrase “they/them, she/her, he/him, we” emblazoned on graphic tees, jackets and a super-sleek tank top. The gender-neutral collection also includes overalls, jumpsuits, denim jackets and accessories like rainbow ombre suspenders and boxer briefs.
Levi’s is donating 100 percent of net proceeds from the collection to OutRight Action International, which works to advance human LGBTQ rights around the world.
The popular restaurant chain is celebrating Pride with a decadent dessert: six layers of rainbow-colored vanilla cake piled high with vanilla icing and sprinkles, available at participating Friday’s locations or for delivery.
“For more than 50 years, TGI Fridays has celebrated people of all stripes, whether team members or guests,” said Sara Bittorf, chief experience officer at TGI Fridays. “We are committed to creating an environment where people can feel free to come together, socialize, and be themselves.” A portion of every slice sold, up to $25,000, will support GLSEN.
This summer, New York City will launch the nation’s largest and most comprehensive workforce development program for at-risk LGBTQ youth.
NYC Unity Works, a $2.6 million initiative that will reach 90 participants over the next four years, is targeted at young adults ages 16 to 24 who are homeless or at risk of experiencing homelessness. Along with job training, it will provide educational opportunities, mental health services, paid internships and job placement, all with the goal of establishing long-term employment and a secure financial future.
The program is an offshoot of the NYC Unity Project, a citywide effort to help at-risk LGBTQ youth launched in 2017 by New York City’s first lady, Chirlane McCray, wife of Mayor Bill de Blasio.
In a statement, McCray said Unity Works “marks the first time that any city has taken this particular set of comprehensive steps to provide training, mental health services and social supports that are critical to long-term success and stability for LGBTQI youth.”
Ashe McGovern, Unity Project’s executive director and a senior LGBTQ policy adviser in de Blasio’s office, praised McCray for prioritizing queer youth.
“I can say unequivocally if the first lady was not at City Hall championing this project, it wouldn’t exist,” McGovern, who uses gender-neutral pronouns, said. “She’s personally committed to it. She’s pushed for it.”
The pilot program will be run through the Department of Youth and Community Development in partnership with the NYC Center for Youth Employment and the Ali Forney Center, the nation’s largest LGBTQ homeless youth service provider.
But a Supreme Court ruling isn’t a magic bullet, McGovern cautioned.
“Nondiscrimination policies aren’t self-actualizing,” they said. “They don’t automatically create a pathway for success for people who have been marginalized their whole lives. Who have been rejected by their families … We need to give young people the skills to be competitive for jobs — even entry-level jobs. It’s an important paradigm shift.”
A recent survey by The Trevor Project, a nonprofit that provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ youth, found 35 percent of LGBTQ young people experience employment discrimination. For young transgender people, that percentage jumps to 61 percent.
Up to 40 percent of homeless young people identify as LGBTQ, according to numerous studies. Many are forced out of their homes due to a lack of support and seek acceptance in large (and typically expensive) progressive cities like New York. Without a permanent address, suitable work clothes or even reliable internet, they can be locked out of the job market.
“Many of them are literally in survival mode,” McGovern said of Unity Works’ target applicants. “There’s not space, time or support to think long term or feel energized and joyful about the future. We’re trying to give them that.”
To ensure their success, the staff will help participants with challenges such as changing identity documents and accessing public benefits. And participating agencies and employers are expected to demonstrate cultural responsiveness and competency.
In addition to two years of direct services, Unity Works participants will receive an additional year of followup from LGBTQ-affirming case workers and therapists.
“We know that young LGBTQ people are largely homeless because their family rejected them,” McGovern said. “They may face peer rejection, school rejection, community rejection, so we knew this had to be trauma-informed. It’s not enough to just give people resumé building tips and say ‘good luck.’ This program is a larger support system to help them feel empowered.”
Mario Smith, a 20-year-old who identifies as transgender and nonbinary and uses gender-neutral pronouns, said Unity Works has the potential to be life-changing.
“Giving trans people the tools to work and get educated — it’s not a handout,” they said. “It’s going to create such a productive group of people who can turn around and help their community.”
Smith immigrated to the U.S. from Jamaica as a teen and worked with the Ali Forney Center to get a green card and housing. Now they’re enrolling in Unity Works to study psychology and eventually become a youth health advocate.
“Everyone’s at a different place in their life,” they said. “Some people need job placement, some need help furthering their education. You can’t just have a cookie-cutter answer. This program is tailor-made to the individual.”
As much as Unity Works will benefit Smith and the other New York-based participants, McGovern is thinking even bigger.
“Ultimately we want to build a model we can prove and push it across other jurisdictions,” they said. “I want this to be such a success that it’s replicated all across the country.”
The number of young people who are gender-diverse — including transgender, nonbinary and genderqueer — may be significantly higher than previously thought, according to a new study.
Researchers in Pittsburgh found that nearly 1 in 10 students in over a dozen public high schools identified as gender-diverse — five times the current national estimates. Gender diversity refers to people whose gender identities or gender expressions differ from the sexes they were assigned at birth, according to the American Psychological Association.
In a report published this week in the journal Pediatrics, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, Seattle Children’s Hospital, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the UCLA School of Medicine analyzed 3,168 student surveys culled from 13 Pittsburgh high schools.
In all, 291 participants, or 9.2 percent, reported incongruities between their sexes assigned at birth and their experienced gender identities. Of those gender-diverse youths, about 30 percent expressed transmasculine identities and about 39 percent expressed transfeminine identities. People with nonbinary identities were about 31 percent of the total.
The overall figure is vastly higher than the roughly 2 percent cited in most national estimates.
The lead author, Dr. Kacie Kidd, a pediatrician and adolescent medicine fellow at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, said that’s because earlier researchers — including those behind the Youth Risk Behavior Survey of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — didn’t use the right terminology or methodology.
The risk behavior survey is a biennial assessment providing vital insights into the sexual behavior, substance use, mental health and violence victimization of young Americans. The 2017 edition, given to 118,803 students ages 14 to 18 from 10 states and nine large urban school districts, was the first and only one to date to include a question about gender identity, but it simply asked, “Do you identify as transgender?” and gave respondents the option to reply “yes,” “no” or “I’m not sure.”
“Of course, not everyone who is gender-diverse identifies as transgender,” Kidd said. “We worried that that language didn’t encompass the breadth of gender-diverse identities we see, particularly in young people.”
So Kidd and her colleagues added a two-part gender identity question in their survey: (1) “What is your sex (the sex you were assigned at birth, on your birth certificate)?” with options for “female” and “male,” and (2) “Which of the following best describes you (select all that apply)?” with the options “girl,” “boy,” “trans girl,” “trans boy,” “genderqueer,” “nonbinary” and “another identity.”
Although the data come from a single school district, the authors write, “the findings may approximate a less biased estimate of the prevalence of youth with gender-diverse identities.”
Kidd said the findings also underscore racial and ethnic disparities in access to gender-affirmative care: The population Kidd and her colleagues see at their clinic are mostly “masc-identified and white,” she said. “And that is just not the data that we’re seeing in our study.”
According to the survey, just 7.1 percent of gender-diverse youths identified as white, compared to 9.9 percent who identified as Black, 14.4 percent as Hispanic, 8.7 percent as multiracial and 13.4 percent as another race.
But, Kidd said, the vast majority of young people who walk through the door of the university’s gender and sexual development clinic are “white, upper-middle-class, masc-identified youth.”
“That’s reflective of gender centers and clinics across the country,” she said. “It makes us question why we’re not seeing more gender-diverse young people of color or who are nonbinary or femme-identified.”
Of course, not all gender-diverse youths want or need services, she added, “but we know that gender-diverse young people face health disparities as a whole and that young people of color also face more health disparities.”
“The intersection of those two communities is one of concern for us,” she said. “We need to make sure that we are serving all of the young people who would benefit from the care we provide.”
The study was published as lawmakers across the U.S. are introducing a raft of measures to ban or limit gender-affirming care for minors and restrict transgender students’ participation in school sports.
“These kinds of policies further limit our ability to provide care to young people and increase the discriminatory rhetoric and health disparities, frankly, that these young people face,” Kidd said.
Numerous leading medical organizations, including the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommend access to comprehensive, gender-affirming and developmentally appropriate care for trans and gender-diverse young people.
“We know it’s beneficial for young people — it’s lifesaving,” Kidd said. “But our political climate is not one that is supportive of these young people.”
Even if the 2 percent figure is more accurate, she added, “we still need to support that population.”
“But the fact that that prevalence, at least in our data, is much higher is important, because it suggests there are many, many more young people who will be harmed by the legislative efforts of folks who truly don’t understand them,” she said.
Kidd also hopes her findings encourage pediatric care providers to ask patients about their gender identities and discuss gender diversity in an affirming way.
“We need to support young people who have questions or who may experience things like gender dysphoria,” she said. “More importantly, we need to be advocates, asking questions and sharing information without waiting to be asked about it.”
A consistent level of parental support, even if it’s negative, leads to better mental health outcomes for lesbians and gay men, according to a small new study.
The report, released this week at the American Psychiatric Association’s annual meeting, found that individuals whose parents were initially unsupportive of their sexual orientation but became more accepting with time were most likely to report symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Researchers at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology surveyed 175 cisgender gay men and lesbians about the initial and current levels of parental support they received regarding their sexuality.
Based on their responses, the subjects were divided into three groups: Those whose parents’ reaction was consistently positive, those whose parents’ reaction was consistently negative and those whose parents’ reaction shifted from negative to positive. (A fourth group, individuals whose parents were initially positive but shifted to negative, was excluded because it was too small to analyze.)
The groups were then given two assessments frequently used to determine mental health: the general anxiety disorder-7questionnaire and a patient health questionnaire. The first questionnaire found those with consistently positive support and those with consistently negative support had “mild anxiety,” while those whose parents evolved from negative to positive had “moderate anxiety.” The latter questionnaire, which rates symptoms of depression, found those with static parental reactions exhibited “mild depression,” while those whose parents shifted their support had what is considered “moderate depression.”
Lead author Matthew Verdun, a doctoral candidate in applied clinical psychology at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology and a licensed family therapist, said many factors could be at play, including that family rejection can lead gays and lesbians to find new, healthier support systems.
“In coming out, we learn how to cultivate meaningful relationships and navigate across social context,” he said. “Who are safe people to come out to? How do I identify the people who are going to accept all of me, including my orientation?”
Re-establishing the bond with a previously unaccepting parent could mean ending therapy or abandoning a chosen family, he said. And just because a parent is more accepting doesn’t mean the environment is a positive one.
“If a parent goes from being unsupportive to supportive, are they abandoning some of their relationships that may still be unhealthy?” Verdun said. “Are they part of a faith tradition that rejects their child or says they’re an abomination? If the parent comes around but doesn’t shift out of that belief system, that’s going to affect their child.”
Previous research has generally linked negative responses from family to a higher probability of LGBTQ mental health issues: According to a 2010 study by the Family Acceptance Project, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young adults who reported low levels of family acceptance in adolescence were over three times more likely to have suicidal thoughts and to report suicide attempts, compared to those with high levels of family acceptance.
But those studies, Verdun noted, look at the dynamic at one point in time, usually when the individual has just come out or is still living at home. “I wanted to know what happens over time,” he said.
The findings can be useful for mental health providers, he said, but they shouldn’t be interpreted as meaning that rejecting your gay or lesbian child is a healthy response.
“If I was talking to parents, I’d say supporting your child is key,” Verdun said.
Psychiatrist Jack Drescher, author of “Psychoanalytic Therapy and the Gay Man” and a former editor of the Journal of Gay and Lesbian Mental Health, called the findings “rather surprising.”
“It’s not the result we expect, based on clinical evidence,” Drescher, who was not involved in the study, said. “But when we don’t know the answer, the answer is always to do more study. I’d love to see qualitative research — get narratives of the people involved and see what themes emerge among those who had the experience of having negative and later positive responses.”
Transgender people who have access to gender-affirming surgery report better mental health outcomes, according to a new study.
The report, published Wednesday in JAMA Surgery, compared the psychological distress levels, suicide risk and substance use in trans and gender-diverse people who had undergone gender-affirming surgery with those who wanted such procedures but had not yet had them.
The researchers found that subjects who had not received the surgical interventions they desired were nearly twice as likely to report severe psychological distress and suicidal thoughts, and reported higher incidences of binge drinking and tobacco use, as well.
“This study adds to a growing body of evidence showing affirmation in all forms can be life-saving for trans and gender-diverse people,” said lead author Anthony Almazan, a fourth-year medical student at Harvard Medical School. “Policies that limit access to care can put lives at risk. Our evidence shows we should be expanding gender-affirming care, not limiting it.”
Depending on an individual’s sex assigned at birth, a variety of surgical options are available, including facial contouring, tracheal shaving, chest construction, hysterectomy, phalloplasty and vaginoplasty.
Of the participants who indicated interest in one or more procedures, 13 percent had undergone surgery at least two years prior to being surveyed, while 59 percent wanted to but hadn’t.
Overall, gender-affirming surgery was associated with a 42 percent reduction in psychological distress, a 44 percent reduction in suicidal thoughts and a 35 percent reduction in tobacco smoking.
The authors say their findings shouldn’t be interpreted as suggesting all transgender people want or need surgery.
“There are many different gender-affirming surgeries, and not everyone pursues every option, or any,” said senior author Dr. Alex Keuroghlian, who directs the National LGBTQIA+ Health Education Center at The Fenway Institute in Boston. “We can’t make any assumptions.”
Almazan, who plans to specialize in psychiatry, agreed, saying whether to undergo any form of transition is “a personal decision.”
“The role of physicians and surgeons is to help individuals determine what is appropriate for them,” he added. “There are multiple studies showing other forms of transition have had similar results.”
Keuroghlian cited a 2020 study that found changing one’s legal name and gender marker on government documents was also associated with improved mental health.
About 39 percent of the participants identified as transgender women, 33 percent as transgender men and 27 percent as nonbinary. Other forms of affirmative care were adjusted for — including puberty blockers and hormone therapy — as were sociodemographic factors, like age, race and economic status.
The analysis didn’t parse results by specific procedure or gender identity, but Almazan indicated that could be addressed in future studies.
While the number of transgender individuals seeking to surgically transition has steadily increased over the past decade, research on its impact has been limited.
A 2019 report from the American Journal of Psychiatry ultimately found “no advantage” in surgery in relation to psychological distress and suicide attempts. But, according to Almazan, it relied on a much smaller sample size and lacked a proper control group.
“When they did update their analysis to include a control group, they didn’t differentiate between people who wanted gender-affirming surgery and hadn’t had it and those who didn’t want it,” he said.
Keuroghlian said the issue of gender-affirming health care is often clouded by “an anti-trans political agenda” that argues trans people “will eventually regret accessing care.”
A Fenway Institute report from last month found that most people who detransition, or revert to their sex assigned at birth, aren’t driven by internal factors. They’re “fueled by social pressure, stigma, economic status, incarceration and other external factors,” Keuroghlian said.
Dr. Sherman Leis, a Pennsylvania physician who has been performing gender-confirming surgeries for more than 20 years, said Almazan and Keuroghlian’s findings are further proof that “all barriers to transgender care and denial of insurance coverage for transgender surgeries clearly should be removed.”
“This is evidence to show those health plan insurers who have not wanted to cover transgender surgery because they wanted ‘more evidence showing the efficacy of surgery,’ that gender-affirming surgery should be made available to transgender and diverse gender people,” Leis said.
The American Medical Association is urging governors across the country to oppose legislation prohibiting transition-related care for minors, calling such proposals “a dangerous governmental intrusion into the practice of medicine.”
In an open letter Monday to the National Governors Association, the association’s CEO, James Madara, cited evidence that trans and nonbinary gender identities “are normal variations of human identity and expression” and said decisions about care belong in the hands of health care providers and families, not lawmakers.
“As with all medical interventions, physicians are guided by their ethical duty to act in the best interest of their patients and must tailor recommendations about specific interventions and the timing of those interventions to each patient’s unique circumstances,” Madara wrote on behalf of the organization’s members. “Such decisions must be sensitive to the child’s clinical situation, nurture the child’s short and long-term development, and balance the need to preserve the child’s opportunity to make important life choices autonomously in the future.”
Citing studies tying gender-affirming care for children to a decrease in anxiety, depression and suicide attempts, Madara said it was inappropriate for any state to limit options for physicians and families.
Earlier this month, Arkansas became the first state to ban transition-related care for transgender minors, when the GOP-controlled state Legislature overrode a veto by Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican. Sponsors of the Save Adolescents From Experimentation (SAFE) Act compare the restriction to other limitations placed on minors.
“They need to get to be 18 before they make those decisions,” said state Rep. Robin Lundstrum, a Republican.
At least 14 other states are considering similar legislation, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.
Such efforts “would insert the government into clinical decision-making and force physicians to disregard clinical guidelines,” Madara warned in the letter.
“Transgender children, like all children, have the best chance to thrive when they are supported and can obtain the health care they need,” he continued. “It is imperative that transgender minors be given the opportunity to explore their gender identity under the safe and supportive care of a physician.”
The AMA, which has previously supported insurance coverage for transition-related services and opposed conversion therapy for gender identity or sexual orientation, joins other major health care associations in recognizing the medical necessity of transition-related care, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the Pediatric Endocrine Society.
Debi Jackson, a Missouri mother of a 13-year-old transgender girl, said she was relieved to hear that the AMA had taken such a public stance.
“Any parent who has worked with a doctor knows this is the best standard of care universally,” Jackson said. “We’ve been praying for letters from these organizations. If anyone can explain why [these bans are] dangerous to lawmakers, it’s health care providers.”
At the same time, she said, “this is not something that should be political in the first place.”
“Defending your job and your knowledge is an uncomfortable position to be in,” she said, referring to doctors who would face criminal penalties under some of the state proposals.
A bill before the Texas state Senate would define providing gender-affirming care as child abuse, potentially sending parents to prison or removing children from their custody.
In Missouri, state Rep. Suzie Pollock, a Rerpublican, has sponsored a bill that would revoke the license of doctors who prescribed puberty blockers or hormones to minors.
“They can go to all the counseling and dress and change their name and whatever they want to do,” Pollock said, according to The Kansas City Star. “I just don’t want them medically treated with drugs. In what other area do we allow children to make those decisions so young?”
In 2016, Jackson’s trans daughter, Avery, appeared on the cover of National Geographic’s “Gender Revolution” issue. Since then, Jackson said, her family has received support from medical providers across the country.
“We have had multiple doctors in other states reach out and say, ‘I want you to know we will take care of your kids,’” Jackson said. “They’re willing to put their neck out, because they care about these kids. Anyone who is offering transition care to kids is doing it because they really understand and are passionate about making sure these kids are healthy.”
Pollock’s bill has stalled in committee, but Jackson said she wouldn’t hesitate to leave Missouri to ensure Avery got the care she needed if it passes. (She is one of several parents who told NBC News they would consider moving if such medical bans passed in their state.)
“Go ahead and charge me with child abuse — I will take care of my daughter,” Jackson said. “I think a lot of politicians think they can intimidate us, but I don’t know a single parent of a trans kid that wouldn’t go to the ends of the earth for them.”
Transgender advocates in New York are celebrating after the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office announced it will no longer prosecute sex workers.
“Over the last decade we’ve learned from those with lived experience, and from our own experience on the ground: criminally prosecuting prostitution does not make us safer, and too often, achieves the opposite result by further marginalizing vulnerable New Yorkers,” Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said Wednesday in a statement.
The DA also announced approximately 6,000 prostitution-related open cases will be dismissed, including 900 cases dating back to the 1970s.
Cecilia Gentili, founder of Transgender Equity Consulting, in the statement called the decision “one of the most significant steps taken Nationally in the effort to stop criminalizing sex work.”
“This resolute action to actively decriminalize sex workers is the kind of change our community has been hoping for, advocating for, for decades,” Gentili said.
Trans people — especially trans women of color — are more likely to engage in sex work: The 2015 National Transgender Discrimination Survey found nearly 11 percent of transgender Americans reported having participated in the sex trade, including almost 40 percent of Black respondents and 33 percent of Latinos.
“For many transgender people, the sex trade can offer greater autonomy and financial stability compared to more traditional workplaces, with few barriers to entry,” the report read. “However, economic insecurity and material deprivation can increase one’s vulnerability to harm and decrease the ability to make self-determined choices.”
Many turned to it after facing rejection, discrimination and harassment in the traditional workforce.
Of the trans sex workers surveyed, almost 70 percent reported losing out on a promotion, being fired or facing other negative workplace outcomes as a result of their gender identity. Those who lost a job due to anti-trans discrimination were nearly three times as likely to engage in the sex trade, the survey found.
Vance described the decision to end prosecutions as an outgrowth of the office’s efforts to connect individuals arrested for prostitution with social services rather than pursue criminal charges.
“Now, we will decline to prosecute these arrests outright, providing services and support solely on a voluntary basis,” he said in the statement.
Vance called the backlog of cases, many going back decades, “a relic from a different New York, and a very real burden for the person who carries the conviction or bench warrant.”
The news comes just months after the New York Legislature repealed a law prohibiting loitering for the purpose of prostitution that critics say was disproportionately enforced against transgender women of color.
More than 5,000 of the cases dismissed this week were related to that statute, nicknamed the “walking while trans” ban.
“When you are an undocumented trans sex worker, having an arrest on your record can impact your efforts at immigration,” said Bianey Garcia, an advocate with the grassroots social justice group Make the Road New York. “It can hurt your chances at getting a job or a place to live.”
Garcia, a former sex worker, said the district attorney’s announcement “is proof the organizing we’re doing, the speaking out — it’s working.”
Vance’s office will continue to prosecute other crimes related to prostitution, including sex trafficking, patronizing sex workers and promoting prostitution, The New York Times reported.
Manhattan joins Baltimore, Philadelphia, San Francisco and other jurisdictions that decline to prosecute sex workers.
Earlier this year, District Attorneys in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx also moved to dismiss all outstanding prostitution and loitering-related cases, indicating they will no longer prosecute such charges.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, trans activist and filmmaker Kristen Lovell was a sex worker in New York City’s Meatpacking District. She called the decision to stop prosecuting “monumental” for the trans community.
“Now, in the land of trans bans, we don’t have to prosecute people for trying to make a living,” she said.
Lovell said she was arrested dozens of times under the repealed “walking while trans” law.
“I’d just get off the subway and I’d be in cuffs,” she said. “We couldn’t even congregate on Christopher Street, an area that has historically been a safe space for our community. … Being a Black trans woman, you’d be chased out of the neighborhood.”
Police frequently assume transgender women — particularly trans women of color — are engaging in prostitution, according to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, which found a third of Black trans women and 30 percent of multiracial women said an officer had assumed they were sex workers.
“We’ve seen trans people call the police and the first question they’re asked is, ‘What are you doing here? Why are you dressed like that?’ instead of finding out what help they need,” Garcia said. “You just survived a crime, and they’re profiling you.”
The U.S. Transgender Survey also found nearly 9 out of 10 respondents who interacted with the police either while doing sex work or being incorrectly accused of being sex workers reported being harassed, attacked or sexually assaulted by law enforcement.
But ending prosecutions is just the start of repairing the relationship police have with the trans community, Lovell said.
“Trust has to be earned,” she said. “It’s going to take a while to build that. They need to reimagine policing.”
Like others, Lovell supports decriminalizing sex work nationwide. But she also wants more funding to enable trans women to leave the industry.
“For those who want to get out, there needs to be more job training, more mental health services,” she said. “And for those comfortable doing the work, it shouldn’t be demonized. It’s a job like any other.”
Suicide rates among young people have been on the rise in recent years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but gay and bisexual youths are almost five times as likely to have attempted suicide as their straight peers.
And, despite advances in the fight for LGBTQ equality, a new report finds that young gay people today are even more likely to have attempted suicide than in previous generations.
Researchers at the Williams Institute, a sexual orientation and gender identity think tank at UCLA School of Law, found that 30 percent of lesbian, gay and bisexual respondents ages 18 to 25 reported at least one suicide attempt, compared to 24 percent of those 34-41 and 21 percent of those 52-59.
The study, published last month in the journal PLOS One, also revealed that these young adults are experiencing higher levels of victimization, psychological distress and internalized homophobia than older generations.
“We had really expected it would be better for the younger group,” said lead author Ilan H. Meyer, a distinguished senior scholar of public policy at the institute. “But at the same time, we knew data from other studies has shown LGB youth do a lot worse than straight youth — and not much better now than in earlier times.”
Meyer and his colleagues surveyed 1,518 respondents who identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual (trans people were included in a separate study). Participants were divided into three cohorts: the “Pride” generation, those born from 1956 to 1963; the “Visibility” generation, born from 1974 to 1981; and the “Equality” generation, born from 1990 to 1997.
Using the Kessler Scale, a clinical measure of psychological distress, they found that members of the Equality generation reported almost twice as many symptoms of anxiety and depression as the Pride generation. Many factors influenced the data, Meyer said, including the fact that people are coming out younger than ever.
“That can be a positive, of course,” he said. “But it can also backfire and expose you to a lot of harassment and victimization. You might not be prepared for the consequences.”
Members of the Equality generation reported coming out to a family member at age 16 on average, compared to 22 for the Visibility generation and 26 for the Pride generation.
That can put them at risk of rejection at a time when they rely most on family for emotional and financial support, said Amy Green, vice president of research for The Trevor Project, an LGBTQ youth crisis intervention and suicide prevention organization.
According to a survey by the organization last year, 40 percent of LGBTQ youths ages 13 to 24 had seriously considered attempting suicide in the previous 12 months.
“It’s not that the world isn’t making progress for LGBTQ people, it’s that recent progress has resulted in an amazing community of young people who understand who they are but still live in a world where others may be unkind to them, reject them, bully them or discriminate against them,” Green said in an email. “And we know these experiences of victimization can compound and produce negative mental health outcomes.”
The advent of social media and the internet has also greatly affected the Equality generation’s sense of identity.
“When we asked them about other people in the community, the younger group’s answers were always — always — about social media, not about real-life encounters,” Meyer said. “People are very cruel online, whether it’s Twitter or Grindr.”
Meyer said that before he examined interviews accompanying the survey, he expected to hear people in their teens and 20s present “a different way of being gay.”
“But one of the first narratives I listened to was from an 18-year-old Latino from San Francisco, and his narrative was the same as we’ve heard for generations — homophobia, exclusion, shame. The evolution [in LGBTQ rights] hadn’t impacted his life as much as you’d expect.”
Members of the Equality generation reported more anti-LGBTQ victimization than their older counterparts, Meyer said. Nearly 3 out of 4 (72 percent) said they had been verbally insulted about their identity, and almost half (46 percent) said they had been threatened with violence. More than a third (37 percent) reported having been physically attacked or sexually assaulted.
“I believe in the power of institutions and social structures changing. I really do,” Meyer said. “But I think real progress takes longer than we think. Just because we’re seeing change doesn’t mean every gay kid’s parents are accepting or that their friends are embracing them.”
There were some silver linings: Of the three groups, members of the Equality generation most reported feeling connected to the LGBTQ community.
“That was actually surprising, because we hear so much about people feeling like they don’t belong,” Meyer said. “But this suggests there is still pride, despite the difficulties and negativity, sometimes even from within our own community.”
Coming out younger has also given them more resiliency, he added.
“Coming out earlier gives you a great start on life, even if you face hardships,” he said. “This generation is already out when they get to college. They have a better sense of who they are. Older generations had to wait longer to live their authentic lives.”
If you are an LGBTQ young person in crisis, feeling suicidal or in need of a safe and judgment-free place to talk, call the TrevorLifeline now at 1-866-488-7386.